Today is a big day in policy and politics. Actually, they don’t get much bigger than this. The president of the United States is being sworn into office, and it’s the opening day of the Hawai‘i Legislature.
Rocked by a global pandemic and political discord not seen since the civil war, the expectations and the needs are high. My hope is that our leaders and our community will rise to the occasion and today will be a day of peace and reflection.
In Honolulu, the Capitol building is essentially shut down, with none of the normal pomp and circumstance. There will be no music, no food, and apparently no speeches. It’s a shame, really. Am a bit surprised there is not at least a virtual opening-day ceremony with remarks presented by the House speaker and Senate president.
At the national level, President Biden is facing a very high bar. He must lead the country through the anger, the angst, the pandemic, and the conspiracy-ridden societal discontent. An impossible task, I think, unless the majority of us who voted for him start talking to our neighbors.
Really, that’s the only way we are going to win. We have to align ourselves in support, and as kindly and as gently as possible inform our friends, neighbors, and relatives — that there is no micro-chip hidden within the vaccine, the mob that stormed the Capitol was not organized by BLM and/or ANTIFA, and that President Biden won the election fair and square. Not a single court nor any state elections office or legislature has concluded there was any significant incidence of fraud that might even come close to impacting the results.
This is job No. 1. We must do our best to convince our once-rational friends that they have been lied to. I am serious here. We cannot keep looking the other way when it comes QAnon or whatever conspiracy du-jour is floating around. The misinformation and disinformation is intentional, the rabbit holes are deep, and the whole thing is dangerous.
Next, we need to explain to all who will listen that supporting the equal and fair treatment of all people regardless of their station in life is not some crazy communist plot. Affordable health care, quality public education, good jobs that pay a living wage and protecting public resources from private exploitation are not radical ideas
Another eminently un-crazy thought is that we must have a tax structure that is fair and equitable. Those who extract more from the public commons, those who waste more, consume more and pollute more, should pay more. And, yes, those who have more should also pay more.
It’s really all pretty tame, mainstream stuff. Certainly, there’s no reason to be afraid and to go charging up the Capitol steps, wearing horns and a fur cape, looking for a hidden socialist. Most of us are right here in plain view.
Talking to our friends, neighbors and co-workers and letting them know there is nothing to be afraid of is critically important. They must understand we’re not going to tax them to death, take away their religion or their 2nd amendment, and their 401k will be just fine.
All we really want is a more just and fair society — for all of us.
Realistically, the way our system of government is set up, there will likely be only small, incremental changes that occur in the foreseeable future. As much as I and others will be working and fighting (metaphorically speaking) for bold systemic change, our system is set up to intentionally slow the process of change. This, of course, is the topic for another day.
For now, let’s move forward together and just continue the conversation. As long as we keep talking, everything will be OK.
Gary Hooser is the former vice-chair of the Democratic Party of Hawai‘i, and served eight years in the state Senate, where he was majority leader. He also served for eight years on the Kaua‘i County Council, and was the former director of the state Office of Environmental Quality Control. He serves presently in a volunteer capacity as board president of the Hawai‘i Alliance for Progressive Action and is executive director of the Pono Hawai‘i Initiative.